From restaurant quality to measly sandwich packs ... how the Championship clubs, including Rotherham United, rated in the 2023/24 media catering stakes

Great grub: The chicken pot roast on offer in Leicester City's media suite.Great grub: The chicken pot roast on offer in Leicester City's media suite.
Great grub: The chicken pot roast on offer in Leicester City's media suite.
“PLEASE, take as much beer home with you as you can, it's all got to go.”

The cheery media officer at Leicester City was trying to empty the press-room fridge following Rotherham United's Championship match at the King Power Stadium in December.

It was Chang lager produced in Thailand, kindly provided by the Foxes' owners from the same country.

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“Come on,” she said. “I know you'll all be driving so you can't drink it right now but put some of these cans in your laptop bags.”

Great grub: The chicken pot roast on offer in Leicester City's media suite.Great grub: The chicken pot roast on offer in Leicester City's media suite.
Great grub: The chicken pot roast on offer in Leicester City's media suite.

Leicester are my kind of club.

Everything about them that day shrieked Premier League apart from the division in which they were actually playing.

It wasn't just the beer. The welcome had been warm, the media food was restaurant quality, the views and comfort afforded by the press-box seats in one of the big stands were perfect.

City finished up topping the table in the second tier and also topped the rankings for media catering.

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Life is generally pretty good for journalists in the Championship. Every club offers food and refreshments of some kind, often exceptionally good and always gratefully received.

Put it this way, it's better than going to Northampton Town - no offence to the Cobblers - where, the last time I went, there wasn't even a press room and a voucher for a hot drink from the concourse was the sum total of the sustenance.

Not far behind Leicester in the catering stakes were Southampton, with play-off places going to Sunderland, Stoke City, Huddersfield Town and Middlesbrough.

Sadly, there were spectacular falls from grace from a couple of clubs.

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Blackburn Rovers also used to provide beer, plus a cooked meal, but now the fridge is as empty as the hot plates that remain in place but unused in the media room while journos nibble disconsolately on bland, generic sandwich packs and reminisce about the good old days.

The decline in the culinary stakes of Watford matched their slide on the field and, having been gastronomic pace-setters the previous year, they were down to sandwiches and wraps.

Rotherham's press room is the smallest in the Championship by a distance but is big on flavour with its catering provision and the Millers, with their selection of hot savouries, finished above the drop zone.

The pies were as Pukka as they come and there were plenty of them. All the regular kinds were there - steak, steak in ale, chicken and mushroom et cetera - but on one particular matchday a chip-shop-curry-flavoured batch made a sudden appearance and won universal acclaim. That afternoon still gets talked about.

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The saddest sight all season came at Premier League Fulham after the Millers had lost there 1-0 in the FA Cup and the press conferences were wrapping up. Ronnie Moore and I watched together in horror as pie after quality pie was binned because there were no late takers for them.

If only I'd taken a suitcase, not a laptop bag.

Meanwhile, said laptop bag was full to bursting that December 23 day as I exited the King Power.

I'd managed to cram in four beers. In addition, my coat pockets were full of Christmas-tree-shaped cookies that had been some of the many, many much-appreciated extras on offer.

There's only one team I'm rooting for in the top-flight next term.

Go on, Leicester.

The culinary class of 2023/24:

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1. Leicester: Chicken thigh, chickpea, chorizo, carrot and tomato pot roast with rice. Butterbean and chickpea stew.

2. Southampton: Chicken in black bean sauce with egg-fried rice. Sweet- and-sour vegetables with egg-fried rice.

3. Sunderland: Chicken skewers in barbecue sauce with potato wedges and salad.

4. Stoke: Chicken curry, rice, naans and mini poppadoms.

5. Huddersfield: Roast potatoes with beef-brisket gravy. Sweet-potato bhajis and salad.

6. Middlesbrough: Chilli and rice.

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7. Swansea: Shepherd's pie with a good selection of vegetables.

8. Norwich: Posh hot-dog, hash browns and coleslaw.

9. Preston: Fish pie and vegetables. Sausage and mash.

10. Birmingham: Chicken curry.

11. Bristol City: Stir-fried beef with chips or rice. Or chips and rice for a few who had no shame and were being greedy.

12. Millwall: Cottage pie and peas.

13. Hull: Pie (selection), chips, peas and gravy. Chorizo sausages with roasted peppers. Both excellent offerings but lacking in temperature. Three bean and spinach box.

14. Leeds: Cheesy hot-dogs. Posh, but not Norwich level of posh. Ronnie wasn't a fan.

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15. Sheff Wed: Steak pie, chips, gravy. On the cold side by the time I tucked into mine, but the Henderson's Relish was a tasty touch. The best coffee in the division.

16. Coventry: Pie (selection) and wedges.

17. Rotherham: Pies. Sausage rolls.

18. West Brom: Pork with mashed potato and vegetables. Passion-fruit pavlova. Sounds good but the pork was all fat and no substance. Disappointing from the Baggies who are normally top-six contenders.

19. QPR: Mini steak pies and soup.

20. Cardiff: A minced-beef pie. And you couldn't sneak a second because of the eagle eyes of the lady serving them.

21. Watford: Sandwich packs, wrap packs. Boo.

22. Blackburn: Sandwich packs. Double boo.

* I missed the matches at Plymouth and Ipswich.